Much like Lazarus, Superman and, uh, Sayid from “Lost,” Gorillaz are back from the dead with their first new album in nearly five years, a post-apocalyptic parable called Plastic Beach.
Of course, not everyone in the band bit the bullet at the end of the promotional cycle for their last album, 2005’s massive Demon Days — just guitarist Noodle, who perished at the conclusion of the band’s “El Mañana” video (she’s since returned in cyborg form), but there was a definite sense that things were winding down in ’Rillaz land, with co-creators Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett even telling MTV News that the group was “retiring … we’re going to do it hip-hop style, like Jay-Z.”
But, much like Jigga, that retirement didn’t stick, and the proof is Beach which hits stores on Tuesday (March 9). Much like everything the Gorillaz do, it’s a sprawling, kitchen-sink affair , with an orchestra’s worth of musicians and an army of guest vocalists taking part in things. There’s a whole lot to keep track of, which is why we’ve prepared this cheat sheet — a list of the who’s, what’s and where’s that make the album tick.
After spending much of 2007 working on Monkey: Journey to the West, a Chinese-style opera that premiered at the Manchester International Festival, Albarn and Hewlett announced plans for a new Gorillaz album, tentatively called Carousel. That eventually morphed into Plastic Beach (Albarn reportedly got the inspiration for the album while sitting on the beach, noticing all the trash in the sand) and recording began in June 2008. In September of last year, Albarn premiered three brand-new tracks — “Electric Shock,” “Broken” and “Stylo” — on BBC Radio 1. In December, Gorillaz appeared on the U.K. cover of Wired magazine and in January their official site underwent a face-lift, making it clear that the Plastic Beach era had begun.
A Cast Of Hundreds
It wouldn’t be a Gorillaz production without more than a few co-stars, and Plastic Beach has ’em by the bucketload. First single “Stylo” features vocals by Mos Def and Bobby Womack (not to mention Bruce Willis in the video ), and the album features contributions from Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon from the Clash, the Fall’s Mark E. Smith, British rappers Bashy and Kano, De La Soul and Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys, to name just a few. There are also musical flourishes provided by Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental and Arabic Music too.
Return To The Road
Gorillaz have performed live in the past — including a sold-out run of shows at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre and a Grammy duet with Madonna — but longtime plans of a worldwide holographic tour never materialized. But, this time around, things may be different — the band have already been confirmed as headliners at the 2010 Coachella Festival , and if Beach is a success, the lure of the open road may prove too much to resist.